With two Sac-Joaquin Section Division I singles titles in three years, Coby McCaig's place in Stanislaus District and section history has been confirmed.
With one year left in a dazzling high school career, the soft-spoken, steely-eyed Modesto High junior is already a local legend. He is the only tennis player in school history to win a section title.
But McCaig craves more than league titles and section banners, and he wonders why the CIF hasn't yet expanded its championship format to include regional and state individual tennis tournaments.
"I feel like tennis is just as important as the other sports," said McCaig, who joined Beyer's Paul Dilloway (1997-99) as the only boys players in Stanislaus District history to win multiple Division I singles crowns.
McCaig polished off a dominating run through the Division I tournament at the Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville on Thursday, defeating Folsom sophomore Sean Barstow in straight sets, 6-2 and 6-4.
"I should be able to go to State, so, yeah, I'm a little disappointed," McCaig said moments after his victory. "It would be (fun) to see how far I can take my game; how high I can raise my level of play in terms of a regional or state tournament."
At the section level, the McCaig family is untouchable.
A McCaig has won a section title in three straight seasons, beginning with Coby's historic victory as a baby-faced freshman. In that final, he stared down Modesto Metro Conference rival Ryan Lewis, at the time the section's defending champion.
Last spring, Coby's older brother, Ceres High dynamo Nolan McCaig, won the Division II title, punctuating a memorable senior season. Nolan McCaig became The Bee's All-District Player of the Year and signed with Midwestern State University in Texas.
Now, Coby returns to the spotlight, but there was little emotion from the Panthers' ace.
Coach Scott Mitchell timed the arrival of McCaig's first smile -- it came nearly five minutes after the final.
"He's very workmanlike," Mitchell said. "He pulls out his tool box, takes his tools out and does his job. That's how Coby works.
"He's played a lot of tennis this season and he's played a lot of tournament tennis, so he's seen a lot of balls. As usual, he was really serious and did his job."
McCaig, the tournament's No. 1 seed, met a formidable opponent in Barstow, the section's next young title contender.
After falling behind a set, Barstow built a small lead in the second set, relying mostly on a strong backhand. He led 2-1 when McCaig made finally found a weakness.
"I saw his second serve was an attackable shot," McCaig said. "He didn't have that many weaknesses, so that was one I knew I could capitalize on. It worked and helped me pull it out in the end."
McCaig won all four of his matches at the section tournament in straight sets, conceding just 12 games. He beat Lincoln's David Jackson, Davis Senior's Edward Zhu and Franklin's Michael Gravel en route to the final.
With two section singles titles, McCaig says he's aware of the company he keeps in the district record books. It's a relatively short list.
He hopes the CIF will give section finalists a chance to play for regional and state titles, too, just as it does in football, swimming, track and field, wrestling, volleyball and soccer.
Tennis players at his level, McCaig said, crave bigger tournaments.
Currently, the CIF offers a regional team tennis tournament, which begins May 15 in Folsom.
"It feels great to be a part of history," he said. "I just look forward to improving every day and getting better.
"It's a big thing -- sections in high school -- but I know it's not my biggest competition. I play at higher level tournaments, like nationals. This is something to hang up, but I'm focused on more tennis tournaments."